Tarbet: Part II

So after spending a fair bit of time around Ardintigh, I started going for wee jaunts around about.

I went back to Tarbet!

I actually went back there twice – once in a kayak and once on foot.

Really cool place, for such a small settlement it has a lot of feature and a lot of interest.

On the way to Tarbet there are many small ruins on the shore

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In Tarbet itself, there are around three people living and working – some caretakers and a crofter. These people typically look after Cameron Mackintosh’s place and the holiday cottages that you see as Kylesmorar. The crofter looks after the sheep you see everywhere. I think there is also a boatman.

There is a big dark horse that oversees the whole show:

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Sir Cameron Mackintosh has a castle there

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I call it a castle, its more of a big mansion. This is his Highland getaway, in the centre of his estate. He found his wealth producing musicals and he is associated with some of the biggest musicals. He sounds like a great guy, he seems to have pumped a lot of money into the area and has supported the construction of the Marina and new visitor in Mallaig, which looks great. He has however had some local fall-outs and there has been a bit of controversy.

He held a huge party for one of the elderly chaps who lived at Tarbet, a bit of a character who defined the place. Tons of guests were invited, many of whom were locals who had never met Sir Mackintosh. Naturally they were curious who he was and were trying to guess which one of the well-to-do looking chaps he might be in their tweed jackets. As they speculated over his identity, they were served by a guy in jeans, t-shirt and dirty apron, serving food from a big canteen-style metal tray. They didn’t even realise they were being served by the man himself!

From that wee anecdote (and the huge amount of money he invested in the area), I think he deserves some respect.

But Tarbet generally is great, and everyone there is really friendly.



Rowing the Atlantic

I’ll go into a little of Tom’s adventures as we go.

So after employment in the SAS in the late 60s, and bored with that, he found inspiration from Blyth and Ridgeway who had together successfully rowed across the Atlantic Ocean.

He decided to row solo across the Atlantic, a feat never achieved before.

He managed this in 1969, after only brief training and very little ocean experience.


Subsequently the Atlantic was rowed several times solo.

Not content with being beaten, Tom gave it another shot and crossed successfully in 1985, at the age of 44. He managed it in 52 days – amazingly, for an west to east Atlantic crossing, this record still hasn’t been beaten today!

Imagine in 1985, without GPS or any kind of route finding electrical kit, rowing so fast and hard that you are able to beat any kind of advanced gadget-enhanced attempt from today. Amazing.

Also, imagine being literally 1000km from the nearest land and being in a tiny boat, sleeping in a cramped wee space and eating frugal army rations, looking out over the waves without seeing anything else for weeks and weeks. The mental strength for that must be immense. Imagine being in a huge storm and having your boat tipped over and having to right it by yourself in the huge waves. Imagine that terror.

But then imagine the golden days of flat oily sea, sun on your back and nothing to interrupt your thoughts. Imagine seeing whales alongside your boat, keeping you company and following you, playful dolphins keeping an eye on you. Imagine all this at night, with a full moon glistening from the waxy sea surface with complete and utter solitude.


I would do some very intense thinking.

I think I would also sing a lot.

Next: Tarbet: Part II



One of the main jobs I had at the centre was stocking up on logs for the coming winter and dealing with many of the fallen trees around the bay that were making the place look untidy.

That was entire days of moving and chopping logs.

Tom had the chainsaw and I shifted the logs into a neat pile.

Logs logs logs.

Most the trees were birch, but there was some pine, some oak and the occasional hazel.

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Next: Rowing the Atlantic




So Tom’s outdoor centre is based in an area called Ardintigh – from Gaelic that translates to “Point of the House” – funnily enough, there is a house situated on a point of land, jutting out into the loch.


It is a very simple place, there is a small cottage, which was developed by Tom in the 70s, before that it was a ruin. There is a small rocky point to the northeast, which, as you can see from the chart image, has some deep water – good for pollack fishing!

There are some woodlands and a small stream leading up to a small loch on the hill. Tom has used this for a hydro-scheme, providing power to the site.

There are several fish farms nearby and all over the shore are the remnants of a mussel farm.

The outdoor centre consists of the cottage and several small huts, but more on that later.

And right in front centre is Moby, the giant whale.

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Next: Logs